Sales Coaching Blog

The SECRET to boosting sales performance

Posted by Kristi Shoemaker

September 22, 2010

Posted by: Kristi Shoemaker, Marketing, EcSELL Institute

Sharing an article published by Selling Power about the EcSELL Institute

One Step to Boost Sales-Management Skills

By Heather Baldwin

If you could do just one thing to improve the performance of your organization's sales managers – and, by extension, the performance of your reps – what would that one thing be? The answer, according to a new study, is to provide professional development for your sales managers. Still, nearly half of organizations say they do nothing in this area.

In EcSELL Institute's "Sales Management Study, Report 3," released in June, the professional-development gap between organizations on pace to achieve their 2010 sales goals and organizations not on pace was the largest of all measured gaps. Of those on target to meet their goals, 64 percent provided professional development for sales managers; of those not on target, only 36 percent provided professional development resources for their management team. "To me, that's a direct correlation," says William Eckstrom, founder and president of EcSELL Institute.

Yet 45 percent of the report's respondents said they do nothing in the area of professional development. This finding was in line with the findings of a CSO Insights' Sales Management Optimization study, which found that 46 percent of companies surveyed spend less than $1,500 a year on sales-management training. Barry Trailer, managing partner for CSO Insights, urged organizations to make changes. "With the complexity of the job of sales manager increasing," he says, "we have to invest more in giving these individuals the tools and training they need to coach and mentor their teams if we expect to see win rates improve, margins stabilize, sell-cycle times start to decrease, etc."

Sales executives tend to nod their heads and agree with this kind of statement – but few have done anything about it. In an earlier study, EcSELL asked sales executives whether they thought developing their sales managers was more, less, or equally as important as developing reps. An overwhelming 97 percent said that sales-management development was more important. And yet, when asked how likely they were to put additional resources the following year toward developing A) sales reps and B) sales managers, 34 percent said they were going to put additional resources toward training reps; only 17 percent said they would do so for managers. In other words, executives are almost 100 percent more likely to develop their reps than their managers – even though they acknowledge that management development is more important.

Perhaps executives think their managers are already performing well and don't need additional development. Not so, says Eckstrom. In EcSELL's second white paper, researchers asked executives to rank their managers' leadership talents. Among the most critical talents was coaching, and only 11 percent of executives rated their managers' skills as very strong. More than 50 percent said those skills were average to very weak.

"When you think about it logically, the average sales manager is accountable for between $10 million and $20 million in revenue. The average sales producer is responsible for between $1 million and $2 million in revenue," says Eckstrom. Those numbers alone should give executives the incentive they need to boost their managers' skills, particularly in the areas of leadership and coaching, which is where managers can achieve the biggest gains.

The bottom line: Organizations wanting to make an impact on performance must devote resources to professional development for its sales managers. That said, Eckstrom warns sales managers not to sit around waiting for their companies to provide training.

"Regardless of what your culture is, we need people in sales-management roles who say, 'I'm going to get better,'" says Eckstrom. When you do that – when you take charge of your own professional development and create an atmosphere of constant learning – you'll not only get better, you may just find you move the entire culture around you in the same direction.
Download a complete copy of EcSELL Institute's Sales Management Research Study, Report 3.
Take charge of your own professional development.  Attend EcSELL Institute's Sales Leadership and Coaching Strategies Summit on October 14-15 in Memphis, TN. 

EcSELL Institute Summits provide a unique opportunity for a select cross-industry group of senior sales executives to discuss a broad swath of issues regarding collaborative leadership, accountability coaching, and emotional intelligence. EcSELL Institute's Summits likely provide the only true forum where Sales Managers gather to discuss critical management challenges. The list of business relationships resulting from prior Summits is impressive.

Topics: sales management research, Research, professional development for sales management, Resources for sales managers

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